Cyril Bloomfield, PhD, FRIC, DSc 1917-2001

Originally published in the June 2002 edition of the Membership Newsletter (No.41)

Cyril Bloomfield, PhD, FRIC, DSc

Head of Pedology Department at Rothamsted, July 1962 – March 1977.

It was with sadness that we heard that Cyril Bloonfield died suddenly on 30 November, aged 84, and the family funeral took place on 11 December.

During the war he was a chemist at Woolwich Arsenal, working mainly on the analysis of explosives.  Cyril was appointed at Rothamsted in 1946 to look at the mechanisms of podzolisation and gleying.  Later he became interested in the binding of heavy metals by soil organic matter, which was in many ways the forerunner of our current studies of soil pollution.  His other main line of research was on acid sulphate soils.  In tropical regions the formation of sulphuric acid when soils containing iron pyrites are drained can devastate agriculture.  Cyril devised a simple but effective mean of controlling acid formation through controlled drainage;  the system was tested on oil palm estates in Malaysia and is now used routinely throughout the world.

He was awarded a DSc from the University of London in 1971 and was a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry.  After leaving Rothamsted in 1981, he continued his science at the University of Birmingham’s Department of Chemistry, and then brought hius chemical skills to archaeology at University College London.  On the artistic side, he was accomplished in working with glass and weed carving.  When any of his friends married, he always made and presented them with a glass stork carrying a baby in a white sheet.  He claimed they never failed – nor did they!